Belfast Telegraph

European City of Culture bid can be rescued if Northern Ireland remains in Customs Union: Anderson

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson has said the joint bid by Belfast and Londonderry to be the European Capital of Culture 2023 can still be rescued - but only if Northern Ireland remains in the Customs Union.

In a statement Mrs Anderson said the news the UK would not be able to host the award in 2023 "does not mean that the bid is finished; it is still rescuable".

Belfast and Derry's taxpayer-backed joint bid was struck a blow after the emergence of a letter, published by Politico, from the European Commission to the UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport saying that after the UK's withdrawal from the EU, "the participation of the United Kingdom in the European Capital of Culture Union action will not be possible".

Responding to this, Mrs Anderson said: "If the British government make a declaration to the EU that the north can stay in the Customs Union and single market then the bid could continue.

"We also need to explore options with the Irish government to see if they can take this bid forward under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the bodies it established."

SDLP councillors from Belfast and Derry/Strabane Council groups have also called for an urgent meeting of both councils to discuss the future of the bid.

Londonderry councillor Martin Reilly said: "An immense amount of preparatory work has already gone into the joint bid to bring the European Capital of Culture title to Derry and Belfast.

"In an effort to boost both regions and demonstrate positive cooperation across the north, our councils have been working closely on this collaborative bid. It presented a real opportunity economically, politically and culturally.

Belfast-based councillor Tim Atwood said: "The European Commission decision is extremely disappointing but it should not be the death knell for what would be a significant celebration of our common culture.

"The EU has demonstrated a unique understanding of our circumstances. I firmly believe that our two councils can come together and present a powerful case for a special consideration of our bid."

The SDLP has written to the European Commission making the case for special consideration for the Belfast-Derry bid, and has written to the Irish government to ask for its intervention.

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